Gefeliciteerd, Grootmeester!

Today marks the 60th birthday of Jan Hendrick Timman, a player second only to Max Euwe in the history of Dutch chess, and one of the strongest players in the world for much of the past 40 years.

Timman’s playing career has been well documented, not least in his own books – he is amongst the most prolific of grandmasters, for the depth and frankness with which he has chronicled his own play. But there is another side to Timman’s chess, and that is his lifelong love of the endgame study. In recent years, as his OTB activity has declined (largely through lack of invitations, rather than any loss of energy or appetite for playing on his own part), he has also forged a fine career as an endgame study composer. A few weeks ago, he published his latest book, The Art of the Endgame.

Subtitled “My journeys in the magical world of endgame studies”, it is a true labour of love, and not to be missed at any price.  I was privileged enough to be asked to do some proof-checking of the English in the book, and was absolutely knocked out by the quality of the content. I could not wait to get my copy, when it appeared, and I have not been disappointed. If this does not win the next ECF “Book of the Year” award, then they should just stop making the award.

Here is just one of Timman’s many fine compositions.

J Timman 11-12 pr, WCCT 2004

White to play and win

The theme of the tourney was positions where White has to play a manoeuvre, which offloads a piece or pawn, and then returns to the start position, minus that unit. Here, 1.Rh7+? fails to 1…Kg6, so instead White plays:

1. Ng3+! Kxh4 2. Nf5+ Kh5  

reaching the initial position, but without the Bh4. Now:

3. Rh7+ Kxg5

The difference is that now 3… Kg6 is met by 4. Nh4+.

4. Rg7+ Kh5 

It is not over yet. White cannot take the queen, because of stalemate. Instead...

5. h4!!

A beautiful finish. There is no defence to 6.Rg5+.

5… Qg1 (5… Qc2 6. Rg5#) 6. Rg5+ Qxg5 7. hxg5 1-0

A very nice, if lightweight piece of work.

I, for one, will raise a glass to Grandmaster Timman this evening. You can order The Art of the Endgame here.


%d bloggers like this: